Summer gardening, end of July

Once the heavy work of spring is done, gardening is mostly moving things around and weeding. The rhododendrons I disliked so much have been re-homed, and I hope their new owner enjoys them. In their place, I planted the three abbotswood shrubs, and they seem to be doing well so far.

Abbotswood shrubs and cedar mulch

I added some cedar mulch, which makes it look nicer and will hopefully keep the weeds down, and just today I moved the tomato buckets from the back fence to the front – the squirrels and/or birds had been stealing the tomatoes even before they ripened. I did get two sungolds and one sweet 100, and they were delicious…but I was hoping for more. Next year, I may set up a trellis behind the shrubs, or plant some sunflowers – something with some height to cover the cinder blocks.

Sweet pea teepeeThe sweet pea teepee is coming along beautifully, though no scented blossoms yet. None of the sweet peas I planted directly in the ground did very well.

I had collected the potted herbs on a shelf I could see from the kitchen window, but they needed more sun. I moved the shelf to the front porch, and the basil, thyme, rosemary, and parsley seem to be thriving in the extra sunlight.

Despite dire warnings about the invasive properties of mint, I went ahead and planted my sweet mint and chocolate mint directly in the ground along the back fence, after weeding, adding some new soil, and putting in a brick border (the house’s previous owners had left a pile of bricks in the basement). I moved the lavender there too, along with a new lavender plant and an allium purchased at the same time as the abbotswood. The two sage plants are there as well; sage is hardy so I hope it will survive the winter.

Back fence with brick border

Lavender and allium

A friend brought a yellow calla lily as a housewarming gift, and I planted it in a part-sun, part-shade area, where it seems to be doing well. I had initially planted a hydrangea on the opposite side of the yard, where we’d pulled out a small dead evergreen, but moved it to join the calla lily. There were already several daylilies growing there; I don’t think they get enough sun, so some are quite small and haven’t bloomed, but others are doing all right, and I don’t have anywhere sunnier that I want to move them.

Daylily, calla lily, hydrangea

The hydrangea arrived in a pot with three enormous pink blossoms, which I cut back once they started to brown. There is new growth toward the bottom of the plant, hard to see in the photo.

I’m pleased with how everything has come along this first year, and glad I didn’t set up any raised beds right away; it’s given me the time to move things around, see where the sun and shade are, and decide to avoid planting fruits and vegetables along our back fence, a.k.a. Squirrel Highway.

On our daily walks, I’ve been admiring everyone else’s gardens around the neighborhood, and taking photos of the plants, flowers, and arrangements I like best; I’ll write a separate blog post about those. There are a few enormous old copper beech trees as well as wildflowers, some really high-level container gardening, and more landscaped-looking yards. Gardeners, I’ve found, are a bit like librarians – they love to share knowledge and ideas, and they’re generous with advice if you ask.

 

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Summer gardening

Spring gardening, May update

Looking back over earlier posts (and the garden journal I’m keeping) has reminded me of changes large and small: shifting the arrangements of annuals around so the big pot has calibrochoa as well as verbena, lobelia, and poppies; moving the potted raspberry bush off the asphalt (it was cooking on hot days and I’ve learned raspberries like a wetter environment; the three canes a friend gave me died); hanging one of the hanging baskets; clustering the potted herbs on the front porch and on a shelf I can see from the kitchen window (though I worry the latter is not a sunny enough spot. I’m working with a lot of part sun/part shade areas).

Back yard fence with tomato buckets

Tomatoes growing in buckets along the back fence

This weekend I hope to be rid of the rhododendron; a neighbor is coming to dig them up and take them away, so I can put things we actually like in their place. Some overall goals I have for the garden are:

  • Some evergreen plants so we have a little color in winter, particularly in the front
  • Plants that attract pollinators (bees and butterflies)
  • Blues and yellows (and greens, of course)
  • Planting strategically to hide ugly chain-link fences
  • A raised bed (next year!) for the tomatoes, strawberries, and other fruits and veggies (there’s too much lead in the soil here for edible plants)
Wooden shelf with herbs

Shelf of herbs (basil, thyme, rosemary, parsley)

Rose campion and vinca vine

Rose campion and vinca vine

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What we’ve read so far, 20 months

Last weekend, for the first time, Lyra picked up a book, brought it to me, and sat in my lap…and then changed her mind, got up, took the book, sat in her little chair, and read it herself. The book was Hug by Jez Alborough, so there are only three words (hug, Mommy, and Bobo), but she turned the pages herself and said the right words at the right pages. Of course she is not actually reading, but it’s a definite pre-literacy step and very exciting!

Hug by Jez Alborough

She also participates in reading now by saying the parts she knows along with us: my favorite example of this is Oh No, George! by Chris Haughton. We say, “What will George do?” and she says, “Oh no George!” And she knows what’s under each of the flaps in the Spot lift-the-flap books, which was a little surprising the first time.

Oh No George by Chris Haughton

We’ve also started reading to her during mealtimes. Some (most?) people would say reading at the table is poor manners, but I think it is perfectly civilized.

Some of her recent favorites are:Some Bugs

  • Some Bugs, words by Angela DiTerlizzi, bugs by Brendan Wenzel
  • If You Give A Mouse A Cookie by Laura Numeroff, illustrated by Felicia Bond
  • Little Pea by Amy Krause Rosenthal
  • Be A Baby by Sarah Withrow, illustrated by Manuel Monroy
  • Julia’s House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke
  • Carl’s Birthday by Alexandra Day
  • The Duckling Gets A Cookie?! by Mo Willems
  • A Greyhound, A Groundhog by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Chris Appelhans (the illustrator of Sparky! by Jenny Offill)
  • The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
  • Please, Mr. Panda and I’ll Wait, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony

She’s been into music more lately as well; she especially loves listening to the Beatles’ version of “Twist and Shout” on the record player (vinyl only; iTunes need not apply), though she calls it “ABCs” (??). She will dance around with her two shaker eggs, and her parents are each assigned their respective instruments as well. She has tried to get the dog to dance and play and instrument too, but the dog is, unsurprisingly, not interested.

She has started to sing along to songs she knows; she’s been doing the “EIEIO” part of “Old MacDonald” and the animal sounds for a while, but she’s started to sing “Old Shoes, New Shoes” and “Tap Tap” (songs she brought home from daycare). One of her first sentences was “Yaya purple shoes” – it’s lacking a verb, but you get the point.

In the car she will look through board books or draw on her mini-Magna-Doodle, and she asks for “baby music,” which is what I call the CDs I’ve made her (mostly Caspar Babypants, but some Sesame Street, Raffi, and They Might Be Giants songs). I’m trying to get her to come around to the Beauty & the Beast soundtrack, but so far she still prefers CPB.

The most recent exciting development is not reading related – she has started to jump! Mostly she likes to jump off things, like our stepstool, but two feet definitely left the ground at once at the playground yesterday.

“What does a bunny do?”
“Hop hop!”

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Spring gardening, May update

About a month since my last garden post, and a lot has changed!

The hellebore seems to have been transplanted successfully.

I did dig up two of the clumps of chives (onion grass) and potted them; I’ve used them on bagels & cream cheese and they are tasty.

I’ve had three early strawberries, one small and two tiny. Hoping for more! So far, they seem safe from wildlife up on the front porch.

I tried to harvest the radishes, and…only greens, no radishes! This happened a year or two ago and I forgot. I think it’s something to do with the soil – I looked it up at the time but didn’t blog about it. Oh well.

Tomatoes: I’ve got five plants in the old orange buckets – we’ll build a raised bed next year. I got two basil plants but too early, and they suffered from cold; I tucked some of last year’s basil seeds in the soil with the tomatoes and am waiting for them to come up.

Raspberries: A friend from work kindly gave me three canes from her yard, but I’m not sure they’ll take. My mom got me a thornless raspberry bush, which I potted for this year; it may need a bigger pot next year.

Herbs and scented plants: Last year’s lavender survived over the winter in a bucket, so I transplanted it into a sunny area in front and put in some rose campion too. I’ve got sweet mint and chocolate mint in pots (but considering putting it in the ground…), white sage and regular sage, parsley, rosemary, and thyme. I built a “sweet pea teepee” in a large pot, and put in some sweet pea seeds around the border of the yard as well.

Large pot with Icelandic poppies, verbena, and lobelia

Flowers: A few here and there – a big pot with Icelandic poppies, verbena, lobelia, and calibrochoa; nasturtium and cosmos seeds in two hanging baskets and various places around the yard; and five phlox plants to start a border around the rhododendron. (Am I the only one who dislikes rhododendron? But it was already here and I didn’t have anything else to put there yet – maybe next year I’ll dig them out and see if anyone wants them. Ben is making a case for sunflowers there instead.)

Weeds: There are some pernicious weeds. Little maple saplings everywhere, for one, and some kind of faintly bad-smelling very invasive tall vine [note: pretty sure this is Oriental bittersweet]. There are also weeds that are less of a menace; I leave the dandelions unless I want to put something else in their place, and there’s one with a lot of greenery and pretty yellow flowers that I’m leaving alone as well.

Rain barrel: acquired from the Town and installed! I’ve been using water from it to fill my watering can and water the plants.

Compost bin: also acquired from the Town! I think it’s working, but I can’t tell yet. I did read almost a whole book about composting so I think I’m doing it right, and it feels good to have so much less kitchen waste (coffee grounds, apple cores, orange peels, eggshells…).

Lavender plant in orange bucket

Last year’s lavender survived!

Phlox and rhododendron

New phlox, old rhododendron

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Spring gardening at the new place

Spring is here, and that means plants and dirt! It also means seeing what perennials come up in our new yard, and planting a few things of our own in the ground, though I’ll still have lots of plants in pots and containers this year.

Greyhound lounging in the sun, new hellebore

Hellebore yellow flower

Hellebore

First, we raked up a LOT of last year’s dead leaves. That alone made a huge difference! Then my mom and my aunt helped me plant four hellebore plants that my aunt had brought from her own garden in Maryland. We planted them where I hope they’ll get a good amount of sun, and added some mulch. The dog also got to enjoy the sunshine while we worked.

There are little tufts of what look and smell a lot like chives here and there. I’m thinking of digging them up and potting them, since I usually grow chives in the summer anyway. If they aren’t exactly chives, they’re definitely in the onion/garlic family, so…close enough, right?

Strawberry plants in jar

Strawberry plants

I bought three new strawberry plants and put them in my old strawberry jar, on the south-facing front porch where they’ll get lots of sun (and hopefully be less prone to attack by squirrels, birds, rabbits, and any other berry-loving wildlife).

I moved the herbs that made it through the winter indoors back outdoors: mint, rosemary, and thyme. I bought three new parsley plants for the herb shelf as well – two curly, one flat-leaf – some of which I harvested to use at our seder. I’ll be getting basil as well, but it’s a little early in the season still – it may still be getting too cold at night for basil.

Radish seedlings

Radish seedlings

I didn’t start any seeds indoors this year, but I did get some radish seeds at the hardware store and planted them in containers outside; they have already sprouted! The first crop should be ready in less than three weeks, and I can plant another crop in late summer/early fall.

I tried to get the little one excited about the seedlings, but she is more interested in the slide, the hammock, throwing a ball (as of today!), and chalk drawings on the pavement.

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What’s next? I’ll plant tomatoes and basil in May. They’ll go in the same containers as last year, since I don’t think we’ll be building any raised beds in a hurry. I’ll probably get some flowers, too, and keep an eye on any perennials or “volunteers” that come up. I’d love to get a rain barrel and start composting, too. (Any tips? Leave a comment!) I’d love to get honeysuckle and/or some berries growing on the back fence, so I’ll be on the lookout for a thornless berry bush or vine. And that all seems like plenty for Year One here! Maybe in the fall I’ll put in some bulbs for next spring – grape hyacinths, daffodils or perhaps tulips. We’ll see!

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Owlt for a walk

We are finally, finally getting some nice spring weather. What classic outdoor activity do we do first? We buckle Owl in the stroller and go for a walk.

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Dad makes sure Owl is buckled in safely.

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Lyra pushes Owl around the driveway…

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…but stops for frequent safety checks.

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Are the buckles still secure?

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Okay, we’re good to go!

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Better call for backup on this buckle. It’s a tricky one.

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What we’ve read so far, 17.5 months

Our little toddler still loves books, which is gratifying (and a huge relief to her librarian mama). She will look at board books on her own, and we read those and regular picture books together; she’s getting very good at turning the picture book pages carefully, if the adult reader separates one from the next.

Recent favorites are:

  • The Mitten by Jan Brett
  • Chu’s Day, Chu’s Day at the Beach, and Chu’s First Day of School by Neil Gaiman and Adam Rex
  • I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen and Mac Barnett
  • Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
  • Oliver and His Alligator by Paul Schmid
  • Foodie Babies Wear Bibs by Michelle Sinclair Colman and Nathalie Dion
  • The Spot books by Eric Hill (Spot’s First Walk, Where’s Spot?, Spot Goes to the Farm, Spot Goes to School, etc.)

As we were reading I Want My Hat Back for the fourth time this afternoon, the summary on the title page caught my eye: “A bear almost gives up his search for his missing hat until he remembers something important.” (For the real cataloging nerds: The Library of Congress Subject Headings for the book are: 1. Bears — Fiction. 2. Hats — Fiction. 3. Lost and found possessions — Fiction. There is nothing about revenge or eating your enemies…though I am certain there are LCSH for those too.)

Here are some other picture book summaries:

  • “A young elephant sees his dad is in a bad mood and tries to cheer him up, not realizing his own mischief caused the bad mood in the first place.” –How to Cheer Up Dad by Fred Koehler
  • “On the first day of school, a young panda learns about the the special things his animal classmates can do.” –Chu’s First Day of School
  • “A monster tries to chomp any reader who wants to go past the first page of the book in order to keep his cakes safe.” –I Will Chomp You by Jory John and Bob Shea

The kid isn’t interested in the summaries, of course – she’s interested in giant fake sneezes. AHHH….AHHHHH…AHHHHCHOOOOOOO!

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Reading Oliver and His Alligator

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Reading a board book version of the song “Ten in the Bed”

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Feeling the kitten’s soft fur

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